Category Archives: Virgin Atlantic

Don’t Miss: 13k Miles to Europe This Summer!

Virgin Atlantic is back with another incredible discount on its economy awards to the United Kingdom.

For about 13k miles plus $100 one way, you can go from Boston, New York, Washington DC, or Chicago to London, Manchester, Glasgow, or Edinburgh.

For about 16k miles plus $100 one way, you can go from Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas, Los Angeles or San Francisco to London, Machester, Glasgow, or Edinburgh.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 1.28.36 AM

Roundtrip prices including miles, taxes, and fuel surcharges. Don’t worry, the out-of-pocket cost listed is incorrect.

The downside to Virgin Atlantic awards is that fuel surcharges are collected, but there are ways to take advantage of this deal while keeping your out-of-pocket cost to a minimum.

How can you book these 13k awards? What are the restrictions? How can you minimize fuel surcharges? How is award space? How can you get Virgin Atlantic miles for the trip?

Continue reading

Membership Rewards 30% Transfer Bonus to Virgin Atlantic Means 14k Point Awards to Europe and 35k Roundtrips to Argentina

American Express Membership Rewards transfers to Virgin Atlantic will come with an automatic 30% transfer bonus from now through November 30, 2013. This transfer bonus allows you to fly:

  • One way from the US to London for only 14k Membership Rewards and $97.
  • Roundtrip from the US to London for 31k Membership Rewards + $191.
  • Roundtrip from the US to Buenos Aires (or anywhere else in South America) for 35k Membership Rewards and $77.
  • Tons of other great routes for low mileage, taxes, and fees.

Virgin Atlantic is a London-based longhaul carrier best known for its Upper Class cabins and Clubhouse lounges. (Do not confuse it with Virgin America or Virgin Australia, which are all independent airlines.) It is not part of any alliance, so its dozen airline partners span the globe and all the alliances.

Should you transfer Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic? What are the key features of Flying Club? How can you get to Europe for 14k Membership Rewards and to South America roundtrip for 35k Membership Rewards? How can you get Membership Rewards?

Continue reading

Roundtrip in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 100k Delta Miles and No Fuel Surcharges

A few weeks ago, Delta and Virgin Atlantic announced an enhanced partnership that included the option to redeem either type of miles for flights on the other carrier. For me this meant one thing, I could use my stash of Delta miles to fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.

I’ve been studying award availability on Virgin Atlantic flights on delta.com, and I can now report the gold mine routes for Upper Class award space from the US to the UK.

And the best part about the space is that it always prices out at 100k SkyMiles roundtrip–the same price as the regular Delta business product–with no fuel surcharges, just unavoidable government taxes.

How can you fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class?

Continue reading

One Million United Mile Sweepstakes, Virgin Atlantic Miles for Referrals, Membership Rewards to Hawaiian Miles Transfer Bonus, and 100k Hawaiian Miles Sweepstakes from Points Hound

Wyndham is giving away one million United miles as four 250k mile prizes. Sign up is easy.

You can earn 1k to 10k Virgin Atlantic miles for referring people to the program. This is especially valuable since 13k Virgin Atlantic miles is enough for a one way flight from New York to London.

Membership Rewards is offering a 20% bonus on transfers to Hawaiian miles through June 27.

Points Hound has a 100k Hawaiian Miles giveaway running through June 21.

Continue reading

Huge Deal: 13k Miles to Europe This Summer

I’ve been posting about award space to Europe for this summer because that’s what my Award Booking Service clients want. In that vein, Just Another Points Traveler just posted about a great deal that I have to pass on:

From New York to London–this summer–from 13,000 Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards plus $98. See how to take advantage of this amazing deal and how that stacks up against my best deals to Europe after the jump.

Continue reading

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 35k

Virgin America might have the best award chart in the world. Last week I covered the amazing deals to, from, and within Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines using Virgin America points. See 20k Points Roundtrip to Hawaii, 45k Roundtrip to Asia, 55k Roundtrip to Australia.

That discovery made me investigate Virgin America’s partner award charts more closely. Virgin America lists two other partners on which you can redeem: Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

Yes, the Virgin A’s are three separate airlines that have all licensed the Virgin brand name. Virgin America has hubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles; Virgin Atlantic has a hub in London; and Virgin Australia has hubs in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

I’ve covered the foreign Virgin A’s before because both have fantastic business class products.

See How to Book Flat Beds to Australia at Peak Times without Surcharges on Virgin Australia with Delta SkyMiles.

See Hawaiian Devalues its Virgin Atlantic Chart.

But I’ve never seen a way to get on their premium products for anywhere near as cheap as Virgin America’s chart.

For only 35,000 Virgin America points, you can fly roundtrip from New York, Newark, Boston, Washington DC, and Chicago to London.

Miami is 40k roundtrip. Dallas and the west coast–Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, and Vancouver–cost 50k roundtrip.

Of course, the issue is the Taxes & Fees–namely the fuel surcharges. You will pay only 35,000 points for the award, but you will pay over $1,000 in cash.

Still this is a deal that I think is very worthy of consideration. Normally business class costs 100k roundtrip to Europe. You can get a nice business class like United, US Airways, or Austrian for under $300 out of pocket in government taxes if you are flying to London.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is better than those business class products from what I’ve read. Not to mention the Clubhouses look better than a standard business class lounge by a mile.

So is the extra $700-$800 out of pocket worth the better product and saving 65k points? That depends on how points rich and cash rich you are, but for many people the answer will be yes.

Or to look at it another way: if you valued a roundtrip Upper Class ticket at $2,000 (a fraction of its cost), and you had to pay 35,000 points and $1,000, you’d be getting about 3 cents per point in value–pretty fantastic!

You can take a look at all the possibilities to redeem Virgin America points on Virgin Atlantic flights here. You’ll generally find complete steals in points with annoying surcharges.

There is no chart, only dropdown boxes to choose a departure and arrival city.

From playing around a bit, I can tell that each segment adds to the total price, so LAX to Johannesburg equals LAX to London plus London to Johannesburg since the trip would route that way. Oneway awards are available for about 60% of the roundtrip points needed.

Virgin Australia

Virgin America points can also be redeemed on Virgin Australia flights. While not quite as spectacular as Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, Virgin Australia business class gets lots of praise too for its fully flat beds.

Virgin Australia is one of the few bright spots of the Delta SkyMiles program because award availability is spectacular, and Delta doesn’t charge surcharges on the awards making the out of pocket price 150k SkyMiles and $150.

Unfortunately Virgin America does collect surcharges, but the award price in miles is a steal compared to Delta’s price.

The US–Los Angeles or San Francisco–to Australia–Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane–is only 80k points and $850. That’s 70k fewer points than a SkyMiles redemption though it will cost though $700 more.

Saving 70k points at the cost of $700 extra is like paying one cent per point to buy points, something that I have advocated before. Again this deal may not be for everyone, but for some, the deal is too good to pass up.

Like the Virgin Atlantic awards, no chart is published. Instead the Virgin Australia page uses the same dropdown boxes. Oneway awards are available for about 60% of the roundtrip points needed.

How to Get Virgin America Points

There are three main ways to get Virgin America points to take advantage of its favorable chart for Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia redemptions.

Like all airlines, you can earn points by flying butt-in-seat miles. Virgin points are earned at a rate of 5 per $ on your base fare. They are not earned the way that legacy-carrier miles are earned–based on the distance of your paid flights’ routings.

Butt-in-seat is probably only viable for people who live near LAX and SFO–Virgin’s hubs.

The easiest way for most people is probably the Virgin America Visa Signature card from Barclay’s.

The card comes with 20k Elevate points on first purchase. That’s more than half the points needed for a roundtrip flight in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class from New York, Newark, Chicago, Washington DC, and Boston to London.

The card comes with a very low $49 annual fee, which is more than offset by the $150 annual companion ticket discount code. And unlike a lot of companion ticket discounts, this one is actually easy to use. It is valid on any roundtrip published airfare, purchased 14 days in advance as long as the cardholder is on the itinerary.

Finally, the card is issued by Barclay’s, which is great, since you can get it in addition to other offers from the other banks with more rewards cards. And it has no minimum spend to get the points, which is great if your spending is being spread thin by the ever-growing minimum spends on most cards.

I should also mention that 20k is the highest bonus I’ve ever seen on this card–the application page notes it is double the usual bonus–so I am not expecting a bigger bonus any time soon.

Application Link: 20k Virgin America Visa Signature Card

The last option to get Elevate points is through a transfer from Membership Rewards. AMEX points transfer at a 2:1 rate, meaning 2,000 Membership Rewards gets 1,000 Virgin America points.

That means you could get the card and 20k points, then transfer 30k Membership Rewards to 15k Elevate points to make 35k total Elevate points, enough for a roundtrip in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.

In November, there was a 50% transfer bonus to from Membership Rewards to Virgin America, which made the transfer rate 4:3. At that rate, you could get in premium cabins for even fewer points.

Virgin America is not a transfer partner of SPG.

How to Book

Virgin America partner awards need to be booked by phone by calling 877.FLY.VIRGIN (877.359.8474). Researching Virgin Australia space can be done online at delta.com. I don’t know a place to research Virgin Atlantic space online.

Recap

Virgin America may have the world’s best award chart. In addition to its partnership with Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin America partners with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

Unfortunately it collects surcharges on awards on the Virgins, but the point prices are so low that the awards can still be a great deal. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class starts at 35k roundtrip, and Virgin Australia business starts at 80k.

These awards would normally cost 100k and 150k respectively.

People with Virgin America miles have a new cheapest way to get into Upper Class. If you don’t have any miles, consider the Virgin America credit card or a Membership Rewards transfer.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook to make all your wildest dreams come true.

Delta & Virgin Atlantic Partnership: What It Could Mean For You

According to Delta’s press release and media outlets such as the New York Times, Delta Airlines and Virgin Atlantic are forming a new strategic partnership. Delta is acquiring a 49% stake in Virgin that was previously held by Singapore Airlines, who cozied up with Virgin in 2000.

On a pure deal standpoint, Delta got a cheaper price than Singapore. Singapore initially invested over $900 million to acquire the 49%. Delta is paying $360 million for that same stake. The two actually haggled over the same 49% stake two years ago but could not agree on a price.

Delta even released a promotion video on YouTube about the announcement.

Anti-trust approval needs to be given by the US government, so the agreement probably won’t be officially finalized until the end of 2013. With that being said, this is potentially exciting news for travelers to Europe.

Delta is clearly trying to benefit from Virgin Atlantic’s coveted slots at London-Heathrow, which is now operating at full capacity. With that being said, it’s probably North American frequent flyers who will benefit the most from this venture.

First, and most importantly, this partnership could lead to lucrative SkyMiles redemptions on Virgin Atlantic and vice-versa. Virgin’s route map to London from the United States is far more comprehensive than Delta. Right now, Delta only offers nonstop service to London-Heathrow from five cities: Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, and New York-JFK.

Virgin, on the other hand, really expands Delta’s coverage. They fly nonstops from Washington-Dulles, Miami, Orlando, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, to name a few. FlyerTalkers in the Delta forum are already excited.

Is Delta’s partnership with Virgin Australia an indication of how it will relate to Virgin America?

There’s always hope!

As Tashir wrote in his post, Delta Still Not Charging Surcharges on Virgin Australia Awards and Space to Australia over Christmas, Delta SkyMiles redemptions on Virgin Australia (Virgin America’s sister airline) are a great value. The award space to Australia is surprisingly ample, even during peak travel times like Christmas and New Year’s.

If Delta can translate this availability to Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia’s sister airline, then getting to Europe from the United States could be quite a bit easier. More nonstops to London will be possible and the value of your SkyMiles should be a bit higher, depending on how much award inventory is released and the taxes and fees associated with the tickets.

Since Hawaiian Miles can be redeemed surcharge-free on Virgin Atlantic, we can hope the same is true with SkyMiles.

Also, if you want to see the SkyMiles earning potential on Virgin Australia flights, check out the chart below. It might give an indication on how SkyMiles will be earned on Virgin Atlantic flights.

I’ve heard about Virgin’s great lounges. What’s your take on that?

Also mentioned in the press release, Delta and Virgin will have reciprocal frequent flyer benefits and shared access to Delta Sky Clubs and Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses for elite members. Virgin’s Clubhouses are well known for their food and upscale atmosphere. I’m pretty excited at the potential to test out the Clubhouse at Washington-Dulles. For a complete list of Clubhouses in North America, check out the list here.

It’s still unclear, though, how the reciprocal agreement will work. Will Delta Medallion members have Clubhouse access when flying on Virgin Atlantic flights? Do they need to be flying Upper Class? Will SkyClub members have access anytime? We need to know more before calling this a definitive win for SkyMiles members.

Have you written about Virgin Atlantic in the past?

Actually, yes.  In my recent post, AMEX/Virgin Atlantic Transfer Bonus, I discussed the 35% bonus on Membership Rewards points transferred to Virgin Atlantic’s frequent flyer program through December 29th. Sadly, this wasn’t a great deal. Virgin imposes the dreaded sky-high fuel surcharges on all award flights, so your ticket booked with miles could end up costing over $1,000!

Scott actually wrote how to avoid this in his post, Redeem for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class without Surcharges, by instead transferring Membership Rewards to Hawaiian miles. However, this work around isn’t really a loophole anymore. As Scott detailed in his recent post, Hawaiian’s Virgin Atlantic Chart Devalued, the substantial increase in the amount of Hawaiian miles required to book Virgin awards really turns this into a poor use of Hawaiian miles.

With the newly announced partnership between Delta and Virgin Atlantic, I can see both frequent flyer programs’ miles getting a slight boost in value. Those with substantial Membership Rewards balances in particular stand to benefit, as they retain the flexibility to transfer to either airline depending on which will offer the better reciprocal redemption options.

More details will be coming in the coming months as to the exact parameters of their partnership, and I’m certainly excited to hear more.

 Recap

Delta has acquired a 49% stake in Virgin America. Details are still being hammered out and the whole deal probably won’t be finalized until the end of 2013. That shouldn’t stop us from speculating on how this impacts frequent flyers, though.

Delta SkyMiles members stand to benefit in a big way. SkyMiles are currently bringing up the rear on the Mile Value Leaderboard, but redemptions on Virgin Atlantic using SkyMiles could be big news for Delta loyalists.

The announcement of reciprocal lounge access for elites shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Virgin Atlantic elites are probably getting the short end of the stick in this deal. Delta Sky Clubs are decent but nothing to write home about. Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses, on the other hand, are renowned for their food, cocktails, and overall atmosphere.

Airline partnerships like this mean less industry competition, which almost always equates to higher airfares. However, I’m cautiously optimistic that Delta SkyMiles members will see better award redemption options to Europe.

AMEX / Virgin Atlantic Transfer Bonus & United Club Fees Increase

Virgin Atlantic-35% Bonus on Membership Rewards Transfers

According to the American Express Membership Rewards website here, Virgin Atlantic is offering a 35% bonus when transferring Membership Rewards into Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles.

This offer is available through December 29th. Transfers must be made in increments of 1,000 Membership Rewards. The minimum transfer will yield 1,350 Flying Club miles.

 Is this a good deal?

Unfortunately not. Virgin Atlantic features an incredible onboard product and great club lounges. However, they impose extremely hefty fuel surcharges on flights…so hefty that it isn’t even worth a redemption for most travelers.

Scott has actually written several articles about Virgin Atlantic’s frequent flyer program in the past. In his post, Redeem for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class without Surcharges, he detailed how you could avoid those sky high surcharges by using Hawaiian Airlines miles to book Virgin Atlantic awards instead of Virgin’s own miles! There are several ways to amass Hawaiian miles quickly, including transferring Membership Rewards. In many cases it made sense to transfer to Hawaiian instead of Virgin to save hundreds of dollars out of pocket.

Sadly, as Scott detailed in his recent post, Hawaiian’s Virgin Atlantic Chart Devalued, the substantial increase in the amount of Hawaiian miles required to book Virgin awards really turns this into a poor use of Hawaiian miles.

So I should avoid Membership Rewards transfers to Virgin altogether?

Not necessarily! Virgin Atlantic miles are still valuable. Virgin miles can be transferred to Hilton HHonors points at a ratio of 1:2. That means 1 AMEX point becomes 2.7 HHonors points during this Virgin Atlantic transfer bonus. Membership Rewards actually transfer directly to HHonors at a much worse 1:1.5 ratio.

We’ll be rolling out our hotel point valuations soon, but provisionally let’s value one Hilton point at 0.4 to 0.6 cents. At 0.4 cents, these transfers would value one Membership Rewards at 1.08 cents. That’s a pretty awful because Membership Rewards are worth much more than that.

At 0.6 cents, the the implied valuation of one Membership Reward is 1.67 cents, still too low, but getting reasonable if you are topping off for a specific AXON or GLON redemption.

For further reading, check out Scott’s post Transferring Virgin Atlantic Miles to HHonors Points. You can also read more about these transfers on Virgin Atlantic’s website here.

Keep in mind the minimum transfer is 10,000 Virgin Atlantic miles and they must be converted to HHonors in increments of 5K. If you are in desperate need of HHonors points, you will yield far more points by using Virgin Atlantic as the middle man in this transaction. Move your Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic and then convert them to HHonors. Check out the math on a sample transfer below:

15,000 Membership Rewards –> 22,500 HHonors points OR

15,000 Membership Rewards–>20,250 Virgin Atlantic miles (with 35% bonus)

20,000 Virgin Atlantic miles–>40,000 HHonors points

By routing through Virgin Atlantic you net 17,500 more HHonors points! That’s a nifty 77% bonus!

How long does it take for Virgin Atlantic Miles to convert to HHonors points?

Virgin’s website states that transfers can take up to 30 days, but reports on FlyerTalk vary from a week to two weeks. If you have a specific hotel redemption in mind, be warned that this is not instantaneous!

I have tons of Membership Rewards points, where should I transfer them?

Scott actually tackled this question in a previous post, What to Do with an American Express Annual Fee Coming Up and Unused Membership Rewards. Membership Rewards are inherently valuable due to their flexibility. If you have a specific award redemption in mind, the ability to transfer to airlines such as Delta, Singapore, British Airways, or even Virgin Atlantic makes them much more useful than just holding, for example, only Delta Skymiles.

Your best option is to keep your Membership Rewards, but if you have to transfer due to an upcoming annual fee, British Airways Avios have some good sweet spot redemptions, especially on normally expensive short haul trips. For more reading, make sure to check out Scott’s posts, How Much Are Avios Worth? The Value of British Airways Avios as well his recent entry Avios Awards within South Africa.

Referencing the Mile Value Leaderboard, we value Membership Rewards at 1.79 cents. Avios are a slight step down at 1.70 cents, which is the option value lost when you transfer a flexible point to a specific program.

United Airlines to Raise Club Membership Fee By $25

According to this thread on FlyerTalk and United’s own website, United will be raising the price of all membership rates by $25, effective January 1st. Three year membership terms will also be discontinued. The new rates beginning next year are below.

As I’ve stated before, lounge access can be a huge benefit when traveling, especially in bad weather or when your flight experiencing mechanical delays or cancellations.

The fact that United is raising prices is a bit surprising. As I detailed in a previous post, Elite Status Offers for Delta/US Club Memberships, purchasing a US Airways Club membership actually allows you access to all United clubs (and vice versa). US Airways’ standard one year membership fee is $450, $25 cheaper than United’s new pricing chart. If you are looking for access to United lounges, buying a club membership with US Airways seems like an easy decision.

Recap

Virgin Atlantic is offering a 35% bonus on all Membership Rewards transfers. While this may seem like a great deal, Virgin has run transfer promotions in the past. 35% isn’t even the most generous bonus they have offered in the past, as they just wrapped up a 40% bonus in September.

Still, if you need to top off an account or potentially boost your HHonors balance, this might make sense. We aren’t advocating you transfer speculatively, though. Membership Rewards are valuable due to their flexibility–they transfer to a variety of carriers. Retaining that flexibility is important if you don’t have a specific redemption in mind at this time.

United is raising the price of their Club memberships by $25. The standard price for a one year lounge membership is $450 with the other three legacy carriers, so it will be interesting to see if they follow suit and nudge their prices upward. US Airways club membership remains $25 less expensive and includes access to United lounges as well. If you are in the market for a United Club membership, save the $25 and join up with US Airways.

Hilton HHonors Promotion: Double Stay Credit

According to this blog post and this thread on FlyerTalk, Hilton has just announced their “Any Weekend, Anywhere Sale” where you receive between 15-40% off the best available room rate for weekend stays booked between now and January 31, 2013. Hotels in the Asia-Pacific region have an extended booking deadline of February 14, 2013.

Stays must be completed by December 31, 2013. Eligible weekend stays will also earn double stay credit towards Hilton elite status. With this promotion, you will be able to earn Hilton Silver status with only two weekend stays (a total of four weekend nights). You can grab Hilton Gold status with eight weekend stays (sixteen total weekend nights). Hilton elite status details can be found here.

This promotion is actually a slight tweak over last year’s “Any Weekend, Anywhere Sale” where instead of earning double elite credit, you received 1,000 Hilton HHonors points per stay.

Details of the promotion can be found here and here. Terms and conditions, along with a helpful calendar that outlines eligible weekends throughout the various regions, can be found here.

How do I book this deal?

The best way is to visit  Hilton.com or HHonors.com. Plug in your destination city and the weekend that you want to book.  Then click on Special Rate Code and enter “PGAWB2.” You should then see all available hotels. Click on the specific hotel to see if they are participating in the weekend promotion.

Which hotels are participating?

A list of hotels participating can be found here and is searchable by continent and region. Note that North American hotels aren’t able to be readily displayed. Hilton’s website can be buggy. I hope this is resolved quickly.

Is this a good deal?

On the surface, this looks like a very intriguing promotion. Weekends are defined as Thursday-Sunday, so you have a bit of booking flexibility in what constitutes a weekend stay.

You can also reach elite status twice as fast with this deal. I have greatly enjoyed my Hilton Gold status that came when I signed up for the American Express HHonors Surpass card. During stays at Hilton properties, I have received free internet, complimentary continental breakfast, and the occasional room upgrade. The benefits are nothing earth shattering, but it’s nice to be treated as more than just a regular walk-up guest.

However, I have to advise staying away from this promotion unless you have specific and firm plans for a future weekend stay (e.g. a destination wedding). The terms and conditions state that “full non-refundable prepayment is required at the time of booking” to take part in this promotion.

The best part about booking a hotel room in advance is the flexibility to cancel if plans change or prices in the area fall. When you lock in to a non-refundable rate, you are at the mercy of the hotel and have little recourse if you need to cancel. At MileValue, we are definitely not fans of fully prepaid hotel rates. Receiving 15% off a room rate is not enough of an incentive for me to book a prepaid rate.

Another reason to stay away is that a seven-day advance purchase is necessary. That’s not a deal breaker, but it further inhibits flexibility in finding the absolute best hotel rate.

Would you advise taking part in this promotion to earn elite status twice as fast?

Absolutely not! It’s just too easy to attain Hilton status through other means besides hotel stays. You should only book hotel stays speculatively if you are very close (within 2-4 stays) to the next elite tier. As I mentioned above, the American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass card gives Hilton Gold status for the first year of card membership and comes with a $75 annual fee. The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa comes with Hilton Gold status for the life of the card. It carries a $95 annual fee. Both cards award top-tier Diamond status for spending $40,000 on the card in a calendar year.

Though not currently available, Hilton in the past has awarded Gold elite status for simply registering your Visa Signature card and staying three times at Hilton properties. The old promotion page can be found here. Examples of Visa Signature cards include the Chase British Airways Visa and the Citi Platinum AAdvantage Visa. Both cards are actually written up in our Best Credit Card Offers by Absolute Value page.

Is this promotion stackable with any other offers?

Yes. Hilton is also running another fourth quarter promotion where you earn up to 15,000 Virgin Atlantic miles through qualifying stays through December 31st. Registration is required and can be done here. Full terms and conditions are directly below the registration page.

Why are Virgin Atlantic miles so useful? They actually transfer to HHonors points at a ratio of 1:2. The minimum transfer is 10,000 Virgin Atlantic miles and they must be done in increments of 5K. For the complete breakdown on how to do this, check out Scott’s post, Transferring Virgin Atlantic Miles to HHonors Points.

If you have a lot of upcoming Hilton stays, you can boost your HHonors balance quickly with the Virgin Atlantic promotion.

Recap

At first glance, Hilton appears very generous in offering double stay credit during 2013 weekends. However, the discount rates associated with this promotion must be prepaid, a huge negative when dealing with hotel bookings.

If you have an upcoming weekend at a  Hilton property, it’s certainly in your best interest to check the promo pricing, but you should also research AAA rates and other rates that allow you to cancel and rebook if prices fall. Fully prepaid rates greatly inhibit your flexibility if travel plans change, so be careful!

Also, elite status is readily available through credit cards and the occasional Visa promotion. If your end goal is to become a Hilton Silver, Gold, or even Diamond member, there are far less expensive and time consuming ways to achieve it than speculatively booking rooms through this promotion.

Hawaiian’s Virgin Atlantic Chart Devalued

Four months ago I broke the news that you could redeem Hawaiian Miles for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class without fuel surcharges, thus saving thousands of dollars. See Redeem for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class without Surcharges.

You still can, but the party may be over. The old chart was a solid value and simple to figure out.

The new chart, hat tip to Gary, is much worse.

I don’t have any information on what North America East and West are. But this is a huge devaluation since the west coast to London went from 100k to 160k.

Not many people had 100k Hawaiian Miles anyway, so this was mainly a play on transferring Membership Rewards. To that end, the only way I see this deal becoming viable again is through a Membership Rewards transfer bonus to Hawaiian Miles, which I don’t think has ever happened.

How to Get 8X on Credit Card Spend

Orphaned points can be the bane of your miles collecting, or they can be a way to get an incredible multiple on future spending. The basic reasoning is that orphaned miles are worthless, but they might be close to something worthwhile.

Here’s an example. I currently have 7,640 Virgin Atlantic miles. Those miles might go orphaned. But I still have my Virgin Atlantic credit card for the next few months that earns me one mile per dollar. If I spend $2,360 on it, I’ll have 10,000 miles, which is the minimum amount I can transfer to Hilton points, as I explained in Transferring Virgin Atlantic Miles to Hilton HHonors Points.

Virgin Atlantic miles transfer at a 1:2 ratio to Hilton points, so I would get 20k Hilton points for my 10k miles. That means that $2,360 would earn me 20k Hilton points. That’s more than 8 Hilton points per dollar!

Will I do this?

It’s not at the top of my list. I value Hilton points at about 0.4 cents each, so that would be 3.2 cents worth of points per dollar. That’s better than non-bonused spend generally.

But I would clear sign up bonuses first, since those often rebate 15% or more of the value of the spending.

I would hit category bonuses before going after my 8x Hilton points. I would rather have 2 Ultimate Rewards for using my Sapphire Preferred for travel or dining that 8 Hilton points for the same purchases. And this is far from the most lucrative category bonus.

How can you identity good opportunities like this?

Take a look at your mileage balances. Look for programs where you rarely earn or use the miles and points. If the balance is below a useful balance, identify the lowest useful balance you could attain. Figure out the value of attaining that balance, and what you’d have to spend to get there.

Some useful small balances that your orphan balances might be near:

Hawaiian Miles- 5,000 can be transferred to 10k Hilton points, 7,500 can get a oneway interisland award

Virgin Atlantic- 10,000 can be transferred to 20k Hilton points

Ultimate Rewards- 1,000 can be transferred to tons of airline and hotel programs, notably United, Hyatt, or Southwest

Membership Rewards- 1,000 can be transferred to tons of airline and hotel programs, notably Avios and Delta

Priority Club- 5,000 can book a PointBreaks hotel and set you up to buy more points for 0.7 cents each

Southwest- Very few points are needed for very cheap oneway awards. Here’s one from Vegas to Los Angeles for 3,060 points

United- Oneway interisland awards on Hawaiian Airlines go for 5,000 miles

If you’re very close to any of these thresholds, putting a little extra spending on a credit card or finding a mini-points promo can be a way to get an incredible multiple on a little spend. It might be a much better deal than just orphaning the miles and points.

Recap

Orphaned points are worthless. If you’re close to a threshold where the points have some value, you may be able to get an incredible number of points for a little bit of spend.

I gave a personal example, where I could get 8x Hilton points on $2,360 of spending on my Virgin Atlantic credit card. I also listed some low-points price redemptions for some programs where you might have some miles that would otherwise be orphaned.

Anatomy of an Award: Hilton AXON Award for Four Nights at the Sydney Hilton

This is another post in my Anatomy of an Award series, in which I take a real award I’ve booked and break it down step-by-step to elucidate the award booking process. If you have a real award you’d like to write up in a similar post, please contact me, and you can write a guest post.

Yesterday, I talked about transferring 10,000 Hawaiian Miles to 20,000 Hilton points. I don’t generally recommend transferring Hawaiian Miles to Hilton points; I made this transfer with a specific redemption in mind: four nights at the Sydney Hilton in January.

My brother and I are starting our Australia adventure in Sydney, so we wanted to have a nice hotel lined up to acclimate to Australia. I had 135,000 Hilton points sitting in my account after getting 90,000 from a Virgin Atlantic miles transfer that I wanted to use.

This is where Hilton’s alphabet soup comes into play. Beyond one night redemptions, Hilton has AXON and GLON redemptions. For a full breakdown of these discounted awards, read this article by thepointsguy. The basic things to know are:

  • AXON- discounted award rate for American Express cardholders for stays of exactly 4 nights or multiples of 4 nights on category 5, 6, and 7 hotels, must be booked by calling 800-920-5649
  • GLON- discounted award rate for all Hilton elites on stays of 4 nights or longer on category 3-7 hotels, the four night discount is 15%, the five night discount is 20%, and the six or more nights discount is 25%, these awards can be booked online if you’re signed into your Hilton account and you have status, they appear automatically

 

There’s actually a flowchart in thepointsguy’s article showing every contingency. Normally for stays of four nights, AXON awards are better than GLON awards.

This is especially true at a category 7 hotel like the Sydney Hilton where a four night AXON stay is 145k points and a GLON stay is 170k points. One reward night at a category 7 hotel is 50k points, so the GLON award is 15% off and the AXON award is 27.5% off (and cheaper than just booking three nights at the regular rate.)

Having checked out the Sydney Hilton online and seeing that it met our needs and had a great location, I called up to book my AXON award. 800-920-5649 is the number of the Diamond Desk, which handles AXON redemptions.

After giving my dates and the hotel I wanted, the agent quoted me the 145k points price and asked for an American Express card. Remember AXON rates are for American Express cardholders.

AXON, GLON, and normal one-night awards are capacity controlled. But I had already checked hilton.com and seen there was availability on the nights we wanted.

I booked the award, and I was told I have until 3 PM on the day of check in to cancel and get my points back.

How you can get access to both AXON and GLON rates

Get the Hilton HHonors American Express. That linked offer gives 50,000 Hilton points after $750 in purchases within 3 months. As an American Express cardholder, you’d get access to AXON rates. The card also instantly confers Hilton silver status, which means you can get access to GLON rates as an elite cardholder.

Of course, 50,000 points are worth maybe $200, so it’s not a great card to get.

A better way to access these rates might be to hold a different American Express card to get AXON rates and go to this page to get free Gold Status and access to GLON rates. That page is targeted to Visa Infinite cardholders.

The way they verify that you have one is by having you type in a card number. Commenters on several sites offer up card numbers that work. Be your own ethicist here.

Here is some info about the booking:

Four nights at the Sydney Hilton in January: $850 ($201 AUD per night)

Our subjective value of the hotel: $600, my brother likes hotels more than I do, and I summed our valuations of $50 and $100 per night respectively

Hilton points needed: 145,000

Total taxes and fees: $0

Miles foregone by not purchasing itinerary: 18,275

Cents per point as booked: 0.37–would have been 0.52 cpp at retail value of $850–according to the milevalue calculator. (I plugged 600; 0; 145000; 18275 into the calculator. Do you see why?)

Most importantly, I’m happy with the booking. Hilton points are worth very little. I value them at 0.4 cents each, and this redemption is in line with that. If you value hotel stays at retail value, then you will value Hilton points more highly. This stay will let my brother and me acclimate to Australia in the comfort of a nice hotel instead of on someone’s couch. And I can use the $425 I saved by not paying for half the room to buy some tickets to the Australian Open quarterfinals!

Redeem for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class without Surcharges

Warning: I’m only 90% confident in the information in this post. It took several calls and a few hours on the phone talking to incompetent agents to get this information, so I’ll provide it without triple-checking. I invite commenters to check my work.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is an incredible business class product by all indications. (See info about the onboard suite, Clubhouses, Lucky’s trip report, and Lucky’s Revival Lounge report.) It’s got the largest bed in the industry, an onboard bar, and first class service at the airport and in the air.

So why am I not flying it? Fuel surcharges. As I detailed last month, I transferred all my Virgin Atlantic miles to Hilton points at a 1:2 ratio because Virgin Atlantic’s fuel surcharges on awards make award redemptions horrible values for me. Here’s its award chart:

As you can see, you can’t step into the Upper Class without paying at least $1,105 on top of the miles outlay. So I was intrigued to see this ad in Hawaiian Airlines’ inflight magazine as I flew into Honolulu last week.

Here’s the award chart for flights on Virgin Atlantic using Hawaiian Miles:

For Upper Class from the mainland US to the UK is 100k Hawaiian Miles roundtrip. To anywhere else, it’s 140k Hawaiian Miles roundtrip. But the real information I wanted–what would the cash outlay be–was not listed. That required a call (or four) to 877-HA-MILES.

The answers I’ve gotten after some long hold times are LAX to Heathrow roundtrip is 100,000 Hawaiian Miles and $288 in Upper Class. JFK to Heathrow roundtrip is 100,000 Hawaiian Miles and $278 in Upper Class.

That’s $800 less per person if you use Hawaiian Miles to book a Virgin Atlantic trip than if you use Virgin Atlantic’s miles.

Let me give some tips for booking with Hawaiian Miles, then I’ll share some easy ways to beef up your Hawaiian account.

Tips for booking

  • After you call 877-HA-MILES and say “Book a new flight,” you will be transferred to someone who cannot help you. Say as soon as possible, “I want to use my Hawaiian miles to book a flight on Virgin Atlantic.” She will transfer you to someone who can book that.
  • The Hawaiian Miles desk is open 8 AM – 4:30 PM Hawaiian time. This is 2 PM – 10:30 PM EDT and 1 PM – 9:30 PM EST.
  • “Hang up; call again” is your best friend. Some (most?) of the agents are completely incompetent. And each call netted me wildly different award availability.

 

Tips for amassing tons of Hawaiian Miles

  • Start by getting both Hawaiian Airlines credit cards–offered by Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii–on the same day. Each has a 35k sign up bonus after $1k in spending in 4 months. Here’s the FlyerTalk master thread on the cards.
  • Have someone transfer you their Hawaiian Miles for free. Hawaiian Airlines credit or debit card holders can receive miles free. I gave step-by-step instructions on the Share Miles feature in this post.
  • Transfer SPG Starpoints to Hawaiian Miles. The ratio is 1:1, but for every 20,000 SPG points, you get a bonus 5,000 Hawaiian Miles, so 20,000 SPG —> 25,000 Hawaiian.
  • Hawaiian Airlines has the only portal I know of that partners with Amazon.com, so you can get 1 extra miles per dollar on Amazon.com purchases. Not amazing, but better than a poke in the eye.

 

Will I be booking a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seat?

Not any time soon. This is an amazing deal to get into the seats for only 100k miles and under $300. But I have 224 Hawaiian Miles in my account, and I have a moratorium on any new trip bookings.

For more great posts like this, sign up for the MileValue RSS feed, like the brand new MileValue facebook page, or follow me on Twitter @milevalue. Get your friends involved too, so you can have more companions for your Free First Class Next Month.

Transferring Virgin Atlantic Miles to Hilton HHonors Points

Fact: I check eight frequent flier blogs daily. (Just dropped a ninth…)

One of those eight is Mileage Saver by Paul Walia. I love it because his posts take, on average, 10 seconds to read, and he covers all the easy ways to earn miles. The other day, he had a post on how to earn 400,000 Hilton Points in Five Steps.

Some of the cards mentioned in his post are Hilton cards, but some just feature miles that can be transferred to Hilton points. On my last credit card churn in March, I picked up the Virgin Atlantic card from American Express. I met the minimum spend by my number one trick to increase credit card spending by $10,000 per year.

Virgin Atlantic miles can be used for flights or transferred to Hilton. Which is a better deal? This is the Virgin Atlantic award chart:

You are reading that correctly. A roundtrip coach redemption from the USA to the UK costs miles plus $660. Since I value a roundtrip from LA to the UK at about $800, I would be getting less than 0.3 cents of value per mile because of that crippling surcharge. (Actually I would probably be getting negative value since if I bought an $800 ticket, I would be earning thousands of frequent flier miles for flying a paid itinerary.)

What about the premium redemptions? They all have surcharges of $1,105! Since I only value the chance to fly Upper Class from LAX-LHR at $1,200 or so, I would be getting 0.1 cents per mile redeeming 100,000 miles plus $1105. (Again, I’d actually be getting negative value because of the foregone miles when flying an award ticket instead of a paid ticket.)

I recognize I have idiosyncratically low valuations for these trips to Europe. But your valuation would have to be over $2,105 just to get 1 cent of value per mile. I like to get 2 cents per mile on redemptions, so I would have to value the Upper Class awards at $3,105 to get that kind of value.

Since using the Virgin Atlantic miles is out, I decided to transfer them to Hilton. I’ve seen people value Hilton points between 0.4 and 0.7 cents. So transferring the 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles to 90,000 Hilton points means I’d be getting $360 to $630 worth of value from the points. That’s certainly more value than I could get out of redeeming the miles for flights based on the above surcharges.

Here’s how the process of transferring Virgin Atlantic miles to Hilton points works.

  1. You have to call Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club at 800-821-5438. Have your Virgin Atlantic account number and Hilton account number ready. I called June 23. I spent five minutes on hold, and I spoke to the agent for two minutes, for seven minutes total.
  2. You must transfer a minimum of 10k miles, and your transfer must be in increments of 5k. I transferred 45k, since that was the maximum I could transfer with an account balance of 48k.
  3. The agent tells you that the names on the two accounts must be the exact same, so you can’t combine your and your wife’s miles into one Hilton account for instance.
  4. The agent tells you the points will post within 30 days. The next day, on June 24, 45k miles were deducted from my Virgin Atlantic account. Five days later, June 28, 90,000 points appeared in my Hilton account.

 

If anyone has any other data points on how long this transfer took or how long any of the other transfer opportunities in Paul’s post take, please leave that info in the comments. I’m not going to go for 400,000 Hilton points, but this 90,000 sure beats the heck out of 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles, which for me had a negative value.